Donny Deutsch. former CNBC program host and regular guest on MSNBC, says people who voted for President Trump are “like Nazis.” Actor Peter Fonda tweets that the President’s young son should be kidnapped and turned over to pedophiles (he apologized after a huge uproar). Comedian Kathy Griffin displays the President’s head and eventually apologizes (sort of). The President himself regularly tweets any number of true, untrue, half-true, and who-the-heck-knows-what’s-true things every day.
Welcome to what passes for public and political discourse in 2018 America. There’s no question that the 2016 presidential election is still creating a major upheaval in American politics and society.
Salena Zito and Brad Todd considered what happened and took a deep look at the five states where the election was won for Donald Trump – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa. All five voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2016. And they went deeper that statewide results – they went into the counties that flipped from Obama to Trump, and many by large margins. And unlike most mainstream media reporters, they didn’t parachute in from New York or Los Angeles the day after the election, interviewed a few people, and then left. They stayed around, and they talked with people, often I their own homes. They talked with their families and friends, too.
The result of their work and research is The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics.
They didn’t find Nazis, unless a lot of Nazis voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2016. In fact, they didn’t find a “typical” Trump voter at all. What they did find was that people who voted for Donald Trump in the counties in those five states could be broadly classified into seven groups, and, because one of the authors is with an opinion research firm, they gave the groups catchy titles.
The seven are “Red-Blooded and Blue Collared,” “Perot-istas,” “Rough Rebounders,” “Girl Gun Power,” “Rotary Reliables,” “King Cyrus Christians,” and “Silent Suburban Moms.” The chapter on each includes interviews with representative people.
I don’t live in one of those five states, but I recognized every single person they talked with. I know people just like them; I have family members just like them; I go to church with people like them.
And while these groups and the people are markedly different, certain common themes clearly emerged. They don’t trust big corporations. They don’t trust the national and even the local news media. They believe Barack Obama, even though they voted for him, led the country in the wrong direction, and especially when it came to national defense and security and the economy. Many of them own small businesses, and they watched their medical insurance costs skyrocket with Obama care while big corporations were exempted. They saw a playing field tilted against them and the communities they live in and love. They believed they were disdained by the economic and cultural power centers on the coasts. And they saw Hilary Clinton offering more of the same.
Their concerns ran so deep that they could look at Trump’s vulgarity, antics, crazy statements, and tweets and say, yeah, they’re bad, but maybe he’s the one who will blow up what needs to be blown up.
The authors consider these groups, and then they look at the broader implications of what happened in 2016, and what that means for the future.
Zito, a native of Pittsburgh, worked for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for 11 years. She joined the New York Post in 2016 and is a political analyst for CNN and a reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. Todd is the founding partner of OnMessage, Inc., a national Republican advertising and opinion research firm.
The Great Revolt tells the story of 2016. It suggests that none of the people the authors talked with have changed their minds since the election, and that national mainstream media coverage of Trump – contrary to what journalists and editors might think – is only reinforcing their beliefs.
As a nation, we have moved into uncertain and uncharted waters.
Top illustration: the U.S. electoral map after the 2016 presidential election.